tv Key Capitol Hill Hearings CSPAN July 1, 2014 6:00am-8:01am EDT
footage. the army put out press releases who say huston and his men were so brave that they actually preceded the army men on the front so that they could turn around and film the soldiers approaching which is one way that you know that a documentary has been faked because film makers don't go first. what's interesting is that even though it is a big fakery, only a minute or two is real footage. it also helped make a vocabulary for what it looked like. huston didn't make the movie because he wants to pull one over on the american public but it was the only way to convey the realities of ground combat and ground troops advancing which is something that had not
been successfully shown in an american documentary before. so even though what you're watching isn't real what huston is going for in the movie is, in fact, a kind of realism. it turned out to be a kind of realism that wasinflue influential on many filmmakers off the war in terms of creating understanding of thousand shoot battle footage that looks real. >> thanks for that explanation. here is that film by director huston, the battle of san pietro. >> in 1943 it was one of our strategic aims to draw as many germans away from the front and contain them on the italian peninsula while liberating as
many as italy as possible by the means of our disposal. operations in italy had to be conducted on an extremely limited scale. thus, it came about during the winter months, the number of alley dif iings visions in ital greatly reduced yet they succeeded in withholding a very large number of germans. san pietro in the fifth army sector was the key to the leery valley. we knew it and the enemy knew. we had to take it even though the immediate cost would be high. we took it and the cost in relation to the later advance was not accessed. by its very nature, this success worked bitter hardships upon
leery valley lies in the italian mid-land some 60 miles northwest of napeles to some 40 miles southeast of rome. a wild flat corridor encloses between four walls of mountains. in winter, the highest peeks of the leery range ascend into the snows but the valley floor with its olive groves and ancient wines. its crops of wheat and corn is green all year around. that is in normal times. last year was a bad year for grapes and olives. the fall planting was late. many fields lay fallow. there are two ways from the south end of the valley. one a narrow pass, it the other a high scenic road over the
mountains. they converge from the sight of the ancient village san pietro. the stones of its walls were queried out of the apparent hills. population 1,412 at the last census. a farming community. patron saint peter. point of interest saint peters. 1438. note, interesting treatment of chansal. from the end of october 1943 until the middle of san pietro was the 16 of some of our more
brutal battles. our battle lines were haphazard as the terrain itself with the swa swollen rivers were twisted so that each river seem like five. where there was no river to cross ai mountain blocked our growing. each new peak had to be fought for with the enemy looking down our throats. they had had time to fortify and camouflage our positions. no amount of artillery fire or bombardment that force them to go. it was up to the man with the rifle. the man under fire from all weapons. the man whose where all of our
weapons serve only to prepare t. was up to the foot soldier to tack a hidden enemy over ground that was sown with mines. the anti-personnel s mines that fly up and explode beneath the groin. nowhere along the entire front were enemy preparations more elab raet than the san pietro area. through leery valley runs the most highly prized length of groves south of rome. by early december we were taking and holding high ground. an italian brigade under command attempted to capture mount luvo. the italians were all but ani
anielated. in new of their loss, the mount was abandoned and decided to make a direct frontal assault on enemy positions in and around san pietro. elements of the 36 texas infantly division were rotated from position to position overlooking the valley so that troops might study the terrain ahead by various viewpoints. patrol activity was continuous. day and night units went out on the ground to draw fire, take prisoners, thus adding to the sum of our information about the enemy. high points.
all mounts were manned in force. the town itself was strongly garrisoned with mortars, machine gun and heavy weapons in placements. four enemy battalions were dug in place that ended from the base of the mount northeast across the valley floor to the base. another italian was organized to defend the high ground northwest of san pietro. earliers before these positions were heavily mined. on the afternoon before, d-day and hks r were communicated to the italian commanders. december 8th, at 0620 hours. the first battalion of the 143rd
infantry regimen having moved up the mountain and having achieved the objective to attack a ridge. the third range of a battalion likewise to attack 950. another feature of the hillmass. the second battalion of the 143 s to attack near the olive orchards. the third battalion acting in support of the second 400 yards. the 143rd are all spent all but a fork night in action under extremely bitter weather opinion. at the crossing, it would take mortal punishment. the task ahead promised no less bloodshed but it was undertaken in good spirit and high
confidence. the first battalion began the long rugged climb up the mount. ♪ ♪ as night fell, our artillery opened up and throughout the night hours, intense fire was laid down on the enemies main line of resistance. it had rained most of the night and was raining at 8 hours when the 2nd and 3 battalions crossed the line of departure. some 200 yards forward they encountered mines and automatic
fire from pill boxes. artillery was deadly accurate by reason of excellent enemy observation at the mount, overlooking our advance which continues our 200 to 400 yards. many men gave their lives in attempts to reach pill boxes and throw hand fwren aeds through the narrow gun openings. the third battalion was
an assault was in progress. to the right of 1205 the third range of italian had also captured its objective but only after attacks and costly casualties for 950 the enemy was not taken under aware. counter attacks were to be expected on both 1205 and 950. they were not long developing. the first was launched during the early daylight hours and even as it was beaten off,
another took form. day and night they followed. unremitting violence. the toll of enemy dead mounted with each new attempt. the german prisoners captured on 1205 and 950 said they'd been ordered to retake those positions at all costs. in addition to defending hill 1205, the hill battalion obedient to the field order undertook the reduction of enemy defenses which were organized running west.
>> on the 12th of december, the if the first battalion was reinforced by the parachute battalion which took over the defenses of 1205 and 950 thereby enabling the first battalion to throw all of its remaining strength on the assault along the ridge. there was now a question as to whether its existing members were sufficient to prevail. reports during the night of the 14th of december stated that the enemy was offering bitter
resistance and that the issue was in grave doubt. meanwhile on the olive terraces below, the second and third battalions had again attempted to reach their objectives. both times they came up to a wall of automatic weapons mortar and artillery fire. volunteer patrols made desperate attempts to reach enemy positions in the strong points. not a single member of any such patrol ever came back alive. our attacking forces were finished with excellent ariel cover by live fighter patrols but now and then enemy planes were able to slip through and to bomb our positions which to all
purposes had remained unchanged since the first day. to break the dead lock, ordered were given for a coordinated divisional attack. the second and third battalions. 143rd were to proceed in the execution of the original orders. acting in conjunction company a. of the 753rd tank battalion were to attack san pietro from the east. one was to attack over the flat valley floor. after nightfall on d-day, the 142 was to attack mount ringo. the earlier decision not to attack those having been reversed in present of the critical situation. in preparation for the attack all artillery within range, including tanks was directed against san pietro and the surrounding area.
each hour, 1200 hours, d-day, the 15th of december, the 141 infantry advanced to be held down powerless under the weight of enemy fire. the second and third battalions of the 143rd advanced some 100 yards beyond their former positions to a point almost directly before forward enemy defenses. for the third time they were forced to take such cover as the quaking earth could offer:orders were for them to enter the town and loc and destroy the heavy
weapons there which were leveled against our it atacking foot soldiers. the high road in the san pietro is a narrow mountain road and from the beginning of its winding dissent in the leery valley it was under direct enemy observation. 16 tarnks started down that roa. three reached the outskirts of the town. of these, two were destroyed and one was missingment five tanks were immobilized behind enemy lines, their crews having to abandon them. five tanks hit enemy mines within our lines and were
thereupon destroyed by enemy gun fire. four tanks returned to the vivolack area. after dark, two companies, one in the second battalion and one from the third finally succeeded in penetrating enemy positions. but receiving both frontal and flanking fire, they were forced to retire. company e having been reduced in strength to a handful of riflemen and company l fairing little better -- on the ridge, the first battalion fought its way within a few hundred yards the objective.
with the ground gain at a man a yard and did not have strength to carry the fight any further forward. on mount lingo, however, despite resistance, battalions of the 142 kept pushing upwards until in the early day light hours of the 16th of december, its foot soldiers had gained a summit and were wiping up what remained of a stubborn enemy. even as mount lungo failed, the enemy throughout the san pietro area, made preparations to withdraw. almost invariably, the enemy will counter attack to cover the withdrawal. the first violent thrust was delivered within a few hours.
thereafter, counter attacks came in waves. the roar of the last mingling with the russian furry. many inspirational leaders came forward in resistance to one last onslaught. our own artillery was fraught to fall within a hundred yards of our front line elements. after five hours, during which the earth never ceased to tremble, counter attacks ended indicating the withdrawal of the enemy's main body had commenced.
entering the town, they discovered that san pietro was ours for the taking. the second and third battalions less than a rifle company in strength, weary to death, who were alive, stumbled forward past san pietro to re-establish contact with the enemy and now taking up positions some 5 kilometers beyond. that is the broad shape of the battle of san pietro which is the first of many battles in the leery valley. it was a very costly battle. after battle, the 143rd infantly
pietro. beyond casino, more river and mountains and more towns. more san pietros, greater or lesser, a thousand more. as the battle past over and beyond san pietro, west ward, towns people began to appear, coming out of their caves in the mountains where they stayed in hiding during the enemy occupation. they were mostly old people and children. ♪
♪ ♪ living was resumed in san pietro. our prime military aim being to engage and defeat the enemy, the capture of the town itself and the liberation of its people is of an incidental nature. but the people and their military innocence look upon us solely as their driverers. it was to free them and their
farm lands that we came -- behind our lives southwest of the sea, the fields are green with growing crops planted after our coming by other people of other towns believing likewise. the new one earth at san pietro was plowed and sown. it should yield a good harvest this year. >> the people pray to their patron saint to intercede with god on behalf of those who came and delivered them and passed on with the noise of a passing
battle. ♪ ♪ director john huston and the 32 minute film the battle of san pietro. joining us from new york is author mark harris. what is your take away from this film? >> you know, it's easy to look at this film and say, got you. you said you were telling us the truth but actually lied to us. now, i think if you watch the
movie knowing that it's restaged, some of the restaging becomes obvious. i feel that there are beautiful and remarkable things in this movie that we now take for granted. for instance, the way the camera jumps and shakes when a grenade goes off or who there's purported enemy fire. that was a technique. it's a technique that we understand to be part of the language of war movies to be seen on screen but it was something that huston in a way invent invented. when john moore made a film, he surprised people by leaving the shrapn shrapnel, something that looks like a mistake, in the movie. >> huston, better than any director from that period understood that realness,
roughness, rawness, imperfection, could be taken by audiences as a sign of truth. even though he faked it, he faked with can' powerful understanding of what he felt war really looked like. so you can't watch san pietro anymore and take it as truth t. i went to the national archives and watched the out takes and footage huston didn't use in the movie. it was interesting that he systematical systematically discarded anything that looks too clean and too hollywood. that is the mark of a very smart filmmaker and really understood that war movies were going to have to look different than how they had looked up to that point.
as a document of film making history, i think it's fascinating and as a war document of the document of the lengths to which the army would go, including stretching or ignoring the truth. i think is also an america's war film making history. >> of course john huton's daughter is the award winning actress ank elicca huston. did he fully understand the work that it had later in his career? >> i think huston lived long enough to understand that he was absolutely revered and venerated as a director. unlike many of the other directors that i wrote about, huston directed vigorously until the very, very end of his life. not all of the movies he made were good.
he read into some reasonable problem and was very honest about the fact that he took certain jobs to get the paych k paycheck. if you look at the movies made at the end of his life like fritzys honor and under the v volcano they are some of the best movies he ever made. >> those who read the book 5 came back. a story of hollywood in the second world war. what do you want the reader to take away from your research? >> i hope that i've conveyed to them something about what it was like to be a hollywood filmmaker from the one we're in now. it's inconceivable to imagine a war now to which 1/3 of hollywood's adult work force
would drop their careers and go off to film over seas for three or four years. all of the men i wrote about had their flaw as people and their complicated personal issues but we understand in many ways what world war ii looked like and felt like because of the war they did. it was all work of the kind that they had never done before. it was an extraordinary leap of effort and sacrifice for every single one of them. what they left us was a leg yays , legacy of world war ii on film that was impacted m much that has been written since. >> mark harris is a contributor
to new york magazine. his book is titles. 5 came back. a story of the hollywood and the second world war. >> american history t.v. continues tuesday night with a look at u.s. foreign policy in the 20th century. at 8:00 p.m. eastern, a discussion on u.s. policy toward totalitarian and communist governments since the 1930s. than a look at the origins of al qaeda that dates back to the british invasion of egypt in 198 1982. book t.v. sat down with former secretary of state hillary clinton in little rock to discuss her new book hard choices. >> getting to the point where you can make peace is never easy because you don't make peace with your friends.
you make it with people who are your adversaries. who have killed those you care about. your own people or those who you are trying to protect. it's a psychological drama. you have to get into the heads of those on the other side because we have to change their calculation enough to get them to the table. talk about what we did in iran. wed to put a lot of economic pressure to get them to the table. that has to be the first step. what we did in pakistan and for getting them at the table for a comprehensive discussion. in iraq today, i think what we have to understand is that it is primarily a political problem that has to be addressed.